Organized by French Ambassador in Athens Christophe Chantepy and held on Friday and Saturday at Technopolis, the second Greek-French Innovation Network Forum, or the Mazinnov initiative (a combination of the Greek word for together, “mazi,” and innovation), was abuzz with optimism about the possibility of fresh synergies between two rapidly evolving ecosystems.
“We wanted to write a new chapter in French-Greek relations through innovation,” Chantepy told Kathimerini. “We already have chapters in politics, economics and culture. Innovation is just so important today and it’s everywhere, not just in the digital field.”
In the second installment of the forum, innovation was apparent in lean start-up models and digital services in the health sector, as well as in cultural heritage. The event also provided valuable networking opportunities between small start-up players and big businesses, while giants like Banque de France also expressed their interest in innovation.
Present throughout both days of the event, Chantepy watched as bigger firms adopted smaller ones from both countries, while also learning how young innovators envision Greece in the future.
“All of the participants were very pleased with the event. There’s real quality behind the numbers. Everyone appreciated the fact that the forum gave them the opportunity to make connections beyond those they already have,” the ambassador said.
Both start-ups and established companies took up the challenge set by the French Embassy with projects like “Smart City,” for example, imagining the cities of the future, while many participants also came forward with tangible, applicable ideas.
“We always need help in developing an idea, a plan, and this is truer today than it was, say, 100 years ago, because the world is a much more complicated place now,” said Chantepy. “It is very easy to get lost when you don’t know how to handle issues like logistics, management marketing, regulations or funding opportunities.”
The ambassador added that what France – which already has a blossoming start-up culture – had considered to be lacking in Greece was the opportunity for companies to lend a helping hand to budding businesses. What Mazinnov aims to do, he said, is “showcase the wealth of the Greek ecosystem.”
If the event’s first installment last year was an attempt to create a Big Bang between the two countries on the innovation front, this year’s forum provided proof that the endeavor is taking root and starting to grow.
In regard to next year’s meeting, Chantepy hopes for “decentralization,” so that the event is split between Thessaloniki, Patra, Larissa and Crete.
“Greece is not just Athens,” he said. “What I have taken away from the event is this blossoming of start-ups, the wealth of the ecosystem, which reflects one thing: that the crisis has not extinguished the Greek soul. I don’t know if it gave it a boost, but it certainly didn’t extinguish it.”